Recently WAN exclusively revealed details of a new airport city in Minna, Nigeria which is hoped will spur a new age of commerce and a positive future for Africa. A team including Sheppard Robson, Arup, Davis Langdon and Nigerian business service Maevis Limited are combining efforts to see the project through to becoming the new gateway to Western Africa. Now Babatunde Fagbemi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Maevis Limited, talks to WAN about why Nigeria is ready for this revolution...
Is there a hunger for Minna Airport City and is this found at all levels throughout Nigeria?
"Niger state Government has embarked on an Economic Regeneration Program which encompasses the development of an Aerotropolis to boost the economic potentials of the State in Minna the economic and commercial nerve centre of the state in particular and Nigeria in general.
The Minna Airport city project is pivotal in achieving the Transformational Development Agenda of Dr Babangida Aliyu (OON) the Chief Servant ( Executive Governor of Niger State) 'to transform Niger State into one of the top three state economies in Nigeria by the Year 2020'. Dr Babangida Aliyu is also the current Chairperson of Northern Governors forum- a vantage position for impressing the benefits of the project to his neighbouring states and securing the required support at Federal level.
In Nigeria the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model of project financing is increasingly more popular due to the realisation that the private sector is better able to operate and manage businesses and the increasingly limited internally generated revenue accruable to state governments. The situation is more compelling in view of reduced federal subvention to the states in Nigeria in recent years.
The Minna Airport City project will be the catalyst for economic development across the state and the entire region.
How would it affect Nigeria and Africa as a whole, what are your hopes?
The project will no doubt create long term sustainable change in the economy, market opportunities and future stability of Niger State, Nigeria and West Africa sub region thereby impacting the rest of Africa. This is in addition to increasing the export competitiveness and foreign exchange earnings of the state and the Nation.
The prospect for increased technology transfer will be enhanced with the project. This will result in a quantum leap in the development of the state. It is expected that the investment will result in significant investment and growth in existing business in Minna City that will have beneficial impacts on economic growth, employment, education, living standards and the overall well being of the city, Niger State and Nigeria.
It will be a major enhancement to the nation’s ability to deliver export capability across Western Africa and Globally. Niger state’s economy will be radically transformed from rural agro subsistence agriculture to a fledgling agro-industrial manufacturing aviation logistic centre. The perception of what is possible in the region will change hence the call slogan for the project is 'why not Niger'.
What would the Minna Airport City change?
The Minna Airport City (MAC), an airport city planned near Minna Airport, will make Minna a hub for people and businesses in Northern Nigeria and the rest of the country. History has proven that populations have centred themselves around transportation infrastructure. The Minna Airport City (MAC) will be targeted for EPZ, ICD, FTZ, industrial promotion, including an area allocated to farming, R&D and agro-processing.
The project will commence with skills and knowledge acquisition schemes as well as introduction of light agro- based manufacturing. The project on completion would improve commerce and industry, create employment opportunity and accelerate the economic development of the state in particular and the country in general and equally bring about an economic network of opportunities on that corridor.
Niger State desires to transform its economy from subsistence production to an export driven internationalized economy through the establishment of the Minna Airport City/Aerotropolis Project. It will cater for the regional economies of Abuja/FCT, the entire Northern Region of Nigeria, land locked countries of Niger Republic and Chad. Using markets and skills is key and crucial to the realisation of its vision.
It will change the living standards of the people and open the state up for accelerated development and urbanisation.
Is the political situation stable enough?
The entire citizenry of Niger state is eager to see the success of this project. The project is not seen as a government project but it is perceived as the people’s dividend of democracy. The citizenry are acutely aware of benefits in terms of increase in commerce, employment and re-skilling opportunities, accelerated infrastructure development and general multiplier effect on the wellbeing of the citizenry. There is a palpable renewed sense of pride among the state indigenes in the realisation that a private sector led infrastructural project of immense long term benefit is to be located in their state. Niger State is peaceful and the people are very hospitable.
The project is not short term in design; it is living and structured to outlive many administrations. The SPV Operating Company to be incorporated for running of the city is conceptualised to be all inclusive –the state government, local government, the PPP partner (Maevis- Cortis Capital), indigenes, private investors, anchor tenants etc. are expected to be investors.
Do you have the internal capabilities to pull off this project?
Maevis is a technology-focused group providing world class Infrastructure, Information Communication and Technology (ICT) solutions to the Nigeria and West African Transportation and Logistics Industry. Our range of services in conjunction with our technical partners include the provision of Airport and Marine safety technical and ICT products, and other solutions to operators in the transportation and logistics industry.
We at Maevis believe that our consortium, consisting of Maevis-Cortis Capital Limited along with our local and international partners including Cortis Capital, Sheppard Robson, Ove-Arup, Davis Langdon, Springfountain, Ernst & Young, Changi Airport International, InterSwitch Limited, Pteris Global etc. will be able to ensure the adequacy of technical and operational expertise of the Aerotropolis operators while ensuring the adequate provision of the Aerotropolis project infrastructure and superstructure as well as feasible and bankable projects based on the Minna Airport City.
Our professional and proactive group of consultants are currently working on ensuring the overall success of the Minna Airport City Aerotropolis project as well as the actualisation of the noble and laudable goals of the Niger State Government.
Maevis is talking to a number of key investors that already have taken similar developmental interests in China and India and, closer to home, has been in touch with potential Nigerian investors.
The project has been conceptualised, a master plan is being developed and potential investors and stakeholders across the world identified.
Challenges and opportunities faced in Nigeria
Nigerian has a huge requirement for infrastructure development and there is a growing desire to address the situation. However the national income cannot meet the financing requirement for these critical investments. The Federal Government’s ‘7-Point Agenda’ which aims to transform Nigeria into one of the world’s top 20 economies by 2020 through a series of initiatives and reforms designed to decrease the country’s dependency on oil must address the infrastructural problem in order to make the vision realisable. This is why the Minna Airport City project is enjoying the support of the Central Government and other stakeholders since its completion is not dependent Government funding being a Public Private Partnership initiative.
Petroleum plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for 40% of GDP and 80% of Government earnings. The non oil sector contributes less than 20 per cent of the Government’s earning can contribute much more than 65% of the country income if the solid mineral resources, agriculture and agro processing potentials are fully harnessed. Currently the federal government is carrying out reforms in the solid minerals sector which will maximize the benefits accruable to the Nation from appropriate exploitation of these resources and institutionalize transparent licensing, tariff and governance process for the sector. Niger state is richly blessed with solid minerals and as at the moment there are at least twenty-five solid minerals in commercially viable quantities waiting to be exploited in the state.
To ensure that investors in PPP project operate on level playing field and are assured of the safety of their investments the Federal Government Enacted into Law the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission Act of 2005 which is directed at formalizing and regulating private sector participation in federal infrastructure.
Why do you think that Nigeria is ready for the new infrastructure, international collaboration and economic boost which is intended through Minna Airport City?
There is an existing Minna Airport which is principally a general aviation airport today handling less than ten flights per day, although the 3.4 kilometre length of its runway means that it is capable of handling aircraft up to the size of the B747, which it actually does once a year during the Hajj pilgrimage.
The plan for the Minna Airport City (MAC) includes a dedicated zone for light manufacture, cargo warehousing buildings and a logistics centre that will specialise in the handling and export of agricultural produce.
This logistics centre will serve as a catalyst to encourage some of the world’s major fruit suppliers to begin growing produce in Niger State which has the climate and soil required to ensure that they are able to provide fresh produce year-round, due to the different seasons across the globe.
More than 2/3 of Niger state’s landmass is arable and this is becoming more attractive to South African and Zimbabwean farmers. Due to its fertile soil it is currently the largest rice producing state in Nigeria. Goldman Sachs has recently identified Nigeria as one of the “next generation” of countries most likely to follow in the footsteps of BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in terms of experiencing rapid economic development.
(You can read more about Minna Airport City in our REPORT)
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